Psyched Online

Outline Notes on a Sports Team as an Effective Group

Translated by Paul Schienberg, PhD

I. THE NATURE OF GROUPS

A. Definition of a Group

1.The common fate of members serves to highlight the nature of a group.
2.Groups are a source of strength.
3.Groups are characterized by a social structure (roles, norms, status differences and positional differences).
4.Groups are characterized by a variety of group processes such as communication, cooperation, task and social interactions, etc.
5.Members of a group engage in a way that they consider themselves to be part of a “we” that differentiates them from “they”.

B. Definition of a Sports Team
1. Collection of two or more athletes who possess a common identity.
2. They have common goals and objectives.
3. Share a common fate.
4. Exhibit structured patterns of interactions and modes of communication
5.Hold common perceptions about group structure
6.Personally and instrumentally interdependent
7.Consider themselves to be a group.

II. Population of a Sports Team
A. Basketball team
1.A basketball team has a collective identity in that individual players, teammates and non-team members all view the group as distinguishable from other units (Los Angeles Lakers).
2.The team has short-term objectives (practicing blocking out for rebounds) and long-term goals (winning the championship).
3. Usually each team has a unique playbook that new players must learn before they can play. Each play might have a name and signal that only the team’s players know.
4. A specific amount of players are allowed on the court. Interaction with the competition must follow certain accepted rules. If any one player brakes the norms or standards of conduct, the team will suffer.
5. The pursuit of goals over the course of a season causes the collection of athletes to think of themselves as a group.

B. Group Versus Collection of Individuals. People in groups
1. Talk freely
2. Interested in welfare of the collective as a whole
3. To assist teammates.
4. Refer to teammates as “we” and other players as “they”.
5. Feel their teammates are helpful.
6. Reliably participate in group activities.
7. Not primarily interested in individual accomplishments
8. Are concerned about the activity of other teammates.
9. Do not see teammates as rivals.
II. GROUP COHESION
A.Definition
1. Groups are dynamic, not static. They exhibit life and vitality, interaction, and activity. This vitality is sometimes negatively and positively expressed. Group members may be in harmony and at other times, they may be in conflict. Communications vary as well from openness to non-existent. Commitment to the group’s goals and purposes can vary also.
2. Cohesion is a dynamic process which is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and /or for the satisfaction of member affective needs.
a. Cohesion is multi-dimensional.
b. Cohesion is not as transitory as a state or as stable as a trait.
c. All groups have a purpose.
d. Cohesion has an affective dimension regardless of its instrumental nature.
e. The goals and objectives of all groups are complex and varied.
3. Cohesion within Sports Group has four facets.
a. Individual attraction to the group – task
b. Individual attraction to the group – social
c. Group Integration – task.
d. Group Integration – social.
III. Developing a Team Concept: Correlates of Cohesion

A. Situational Factors
1. Individuals in close have a greater tendency to bond together. (Golf team). Examples include a team locker room, residence or training table. Interaction becomes inevitable.
2. As a team becomes more separate – more distinctive – from other groups – feelings of oneness and unity increase. Examples include uniforms, mottos, special initiation rites, special privileges, or demanding special sacrifices.Year long training and reduced time for social activities or part-time employment increase cohesiveness. Emphasize sense of history and tradition of the organization.
3. Team size is also associated with cohesiveness. Moderate sized groups showed greatest cohesiveness. Larger and smaller size groups showed the least cohesiveness. Task cohesiveness decreased as size increased.
B. Personal Factors
1. Similarity in attitudes, aspirations, commitments and ability were correlated with cohesiveness.
2. Differences in personality, ethnicity, racial background, economic status, and other factors are inevitable.
3. The most important factor in the development of task and social cohesiveness is individual satisfaction.
a. Individual satisfaction is influenced by quality of competition.
b. Opportunity for social interaction is also important.
c. Athletes need to feel that they are improving their skill levels.
d. Recognition from others (parents, coaches, teammates, and public).
e. A personal factor associated with cohesiveness is commitment to the team.
C. Leadership Factors
1. In a mutiny cohesion is high, the leader-subordinate relationship is poor (the leader is excluded from the group) and performance is poor.
2. In a study of golf coaches and team members, golf coaches were not crucial to the development of team cohesion.
3. The perception that a group has about itself becomes more distorted the more cohesive it is. The group tends to be very favorable in its perception of its own members and to overvalue its own contributions, importance and performance. On the other side of the same coin, the team undervalues the contributions, importance, and performance of other groups or non group members. This turning inward can lead to some difficulties for a new, formally appointed leader such as a coach. This is especially true when a successful and popular coach has been replaced.
4. Decision making style is important. Team members engage in behaviors more persistently, with greater intensity and for a longer duration when they have an opportunity to participate in decision making.
5. The compatibility between coaches and athletes is related to team cohesiveness.

D. Team Factors
1. Group positions: refers to the fact that when collections of individuals meet regularly people tend to consistently occupy a specific geographic space. This contributes to a sense of continuity and unity and development of perceptions of “we” versus “they.”
2. A role is a set of behaviors that are expected from the occupants of specific positions within the group.
a. Formal Roles are explicitly set out by the group’s organization. Coach, team captain, and manager, forward, guard and center in basketball are explicit formal roles. Individuals are trained or recruited to carry out each of these roles.
b. Informal roles evolve as a result of the interactions that take place among group members. Some examples are leader, enforcer, police officer, social director and team clown.
c. When individual group members understand their roles and attempt to carry out their roles to the best of their ability (role performance) the group’s effectiveness is improved.
d. The behavior requirements of each role should be made as explicit as possible.
e. Role acceptance is enhanced when the coach minimizes the status differences between roles.
f. Role clarity and role acceptance can be improved through an effective goal-setting program. Goal-setting serves four important functions: it directs the individual’s attention and actions toward appropriate behavior, it motivates the individual to develop strategies to achieve the goal, it contributes to increased interest in the activity and it leads to prolonged .
3. The presence of norms is also associated with increased cohesiveness. A norm can be task irrelevant or task relevant. A norm reflects the group’s consensus about behaviors that are considered acceptable.
a. New team members quickly become aware of the standard of behaviors that are considered acceptable in their interactions with the manager and begin to act accordingly.
b. With increased cohesiveness there is greater conformity to group standards for behavior and performance.
c. New groups have minimal influence over its members.
d. As cohesion increases, adherence to norms and behavior increases. Failure to conform can lead to sanctions.
e. Norm for productivity: Productivity above or below the standard is not tolerated by the group.
4.The key factor that influences the relationship between cohesion and productivity is the group’s norm for productivity.
a. If group cohesion is high and the norm for productivity is high, performance will be positively affected.
b. If group cohesion is high and norm for productivity is low, performance will be low or negative.
c. When cohesion is low and groups with a high norm will outperform groups with a low norm.
5. Another important aspect of group norm is stability.
a. It has been shown that a norm established on a team will persist for four or five generations after the original members have left.
b. If a negative norm, such as abusive behavior toward officials, or other team members, a laissez-faire attitude toward training, a reliance on individual versus team goals, those goals could persist over a number of seasons unless steps are taken. To change the norm it is important to enlist both formal and informal leaders. If these leaders are not cooperative to the change, personnel shifts might need to be considered.
6. Group Goals and Rewards
a. In this day and age individual players get many individual recognition and rewards.
b. Therefore it is important that the coach ensure the concept of unity is reinforced.
c. The coach must emphasize the group’s goal and objectives and rewards that will accrue to the group if these are achieved. Individual goals and rewards should be downplayed.
7. Communication
a. As the level of communication relating to task and social issues increases, cohesion is enhanced.
b. As the group becomes more cohesion, there is also increased communication.
c. The exchange of task information and social pleasantries increases with cohesiveness.
8. Ways to Improve Coach-Athlete Communication and Team Harmony
a. Open communication channels by providing opportunities for athletic input. There must be mutual respect and essential in order to keep the channels open.
b. Develop pride and a sense of collective identity within the group by setting out realistic team, individual, and subunit goals.
c. Strive for common expectations on what type of behavior are appropriate. The coach should specify objectives, strategy, operating procedure, or means to reach the goals.
d. The coach could value unique personal contributions by emphasizing the importance of each role that are necessary for group performance.
e. The outstanding execution of a role should be recognized to enhance the pride and commitment in the group by its members.
f. Strive for consensus and commitment in goal-setting activities.
g. Use periodic team meetings to resolve conflict.
h. Stay in touch with formal and informal leaders in the team.
i. Focus on success before discussing any failures.
j. Success contributes to cohesiveness. So, it is good for the coach to have an easier schedule at the beginning of the season.
k. Group cohesion is influenced by team stability. When groups are together for a long time, their sense of cohesiveness increases. Members do not voluntarily leave the team, are more punctual at practices, are absent less often and leave practice before it’s over less frequently. A coach should try to avoid excessive personnel turnover.

IV. TEAM BUILDLING
A. The intention of team building is to promote an increased sense of unity and cohesiveness and enable the team to function more smoothly and effectively.
B. One approach to team building interventions is as follows:
1. Introductory Stage: The relationship between perception of cohesiveness and enhanced team dynamics are discussed.
2. Conceptual Stage: There are three purposes behind this stage.
a. to facilitate communication with coaches/leaders about complex concepts like groups, cohesiveness, etc.
b. to highlight the interrelatedness of various components of the team-building protocol
c. to identify the focus for possible interventions.
3. Practical Stage: The purpose was to have coaches/leaders, in an interactive brainstorming session, attempt to generate as many specific strategies as possible to use for team building in their group. Specific intervention strategies are important for three reasons:
a. Coaches/leaders differ in personality and preferences – a strategy that might work for one coach might not work for another.
b. Groups differ as well. So, a strategy that might work for one group might not work for another.
c. Motivation is enhanced when individuals are given greater control over personal behavior.
4. Intervention Stage
a. The team-building protocols were introduced and maintained by leaders.
b. Selected high status members of the team should be included as part of the intervention stage. They can be very effective in giving effective feedback.